A carjacker drove ‘like a lunatic’ to get away from Gardaí, while roaring “drive it like you stole it” at the terrified owner, who had been assaulted and bundled into the back seat of his own car.
Fearing loss of life as the 1999 Volkswagen Golf drove at high speed – mostly on the incorrect side of the road for almost 30km from Galway City to Corrandulla – Gardaí decided to end the pursuit 10km into the chase.
The driver finally lost control while trying to negotiate a bend near Corrandulla at speed. The car mounted a steep embankment and crashed into a tree, landing on its side.
The driver and two of his friends were uninjured, while the car’s owner received injuries to his arm and shoulder. He underwent surgery and spent six days in hospital.
At his four-day trial before a jury at Galway Circuit Criminal Court last week, John Conroy (23), of 2 Bog Road, Ballinrobe, denied thirteen counts of dangerous driving at locations in the Galway City area, between Ballymoneen Road, Knocknacarra and Ballinfoyle, Headford Road, on May 31, 2016.
Conroy also denied a charge of public endangerment, in that he intentionally or recklessly drove straight through red lights at speed and crossed over a dual carriageway at Quincentenary Bridge and drove on the incorrect side of the road, forcing oncoming vehicles to take action to avoid a head-on collision, which created a substantial risk of causing death or serious harm to another, on the same date.
He further denied a charge of seizing the car by force from Thomas Ackroyd on a boreen in Shantallow, Tuam, on the same date.
In a separate development, on the final day of the trial at Galway Courthouse last Friday, the jury of six men and six women had to be transported by bus to lunch at the Imperial Hotel in Eyre Square, amid Garda concerns of juror intimidation by some people attending the trial. Two Gardaí were assigned to protect the jury until they returned to the courthouse to begin their deliberations that afternoon.
Thomas Ackroyd (27), who owned the Golf, told the jury on the first day of the trial last Tuesday, that he could remember nothing after he finished work in a car valeting business in Ballinrobe on the evening of May 31, 2016.
During legal argument in the absence of the jury, he said he had been under the influence of morphine at the time due to his injuries and could only remember 2% of what was in two voluntary statements which he had given to Sergeant Emma Kerin at Tuam Garda Station on June 6 and again on June 17, 2016.
Following further legal argument, prosecuting barrister, Ms Geri Silke, was allowed by Judge Eoin Garavan to read the two statements into evidence – once the trial resumed in front of the jury.
She explained to jurors that her reading the statements to them was the same as if Ackroyd was giving the evidence himself directly from the witness box.
In his first statement, Ackroyd said he was sitting in his car in Ballinrobe town that evening, talking to a girl in another car beside his, when John Conroy and Michael “Kinsey” Sweeney got into his car. They asked him to drive them to Galway but he refused.
They became threatening and demanded he drive them to Foxhall. He was petrified and agreed to do so. On the way, they picked up TJ Sweeney.
Ackroyd was told to drive up a boreen, which led to Western Casings on the outskirts of Tuam. He was terrified at this point and when he tried to reverse out of the boreen, Conroy headbutted him.
Kinsey then opened the driver’s door and pulled him out, before bundling him into the back seat. Ackroyd said he really thought he was going to be stabbed at that point.
Conroy took over and drove to Headford via Corrandulla. They stopped at Joyce’s and both Sweeneys went in and came back out with slabs of cider.
Conroy and the two others started drinking as the car drove towards Galway.
They stopped at the Trading Post filling station where Kinsey demanded Ackroyd give him €20 to pay for petrol.
The car drove to Galway and went out towards Salthill where Conroy overtook a taxi on the crest of a hill on the Ballymoneen Road. A Garda patrol car, being driven by Garda Denise O’Halloran, which was coming towards them, had to take evasive action to avoid a head-on collision. She turned her car and pursued the Golf.
Meanwhile, Ackroyd said in his statement that he thought he was going to die and was ‘shaking like a leaf’ in the back of his own car.
“John John (Conroy) took off like a lunatic, going through red lights and overtaking and undertaking cars. Kinsey was egging him on to drive faster.
“He kept looking back at me laughing and shouting ‘drive it like you stole it’.
“He drove out the Curraghline, to Clonboo and turned left at Peggy’s bar. They stopped and were laughing and joking about how they got away from the guards.
“John John drove on again like an absolute lunatic. We went around a bend and he lost control. He was doing 80mph. The car hit a grass verge, a wall and a couple of trees and went up on its passenger’s side.”
Ackroyd said he was threatened not to say anything to the Gardaí at the scene and he overheard Kinsey say to Conroy that if he (Ackroyd) tried to run, he would get him.
Conroy had told Kinsey not to worry, as he had a knife in his pocket.
Ackroyd said the manner in which they spoke to him from once they got into his car made him fear for his safety.
Ackroyd showed Sgt Kerin the route Conroy had taken from when he met the Garda car at Ballymoneen Road in Salthill until it crashed near Corrandulla, when he gave his second statement to her on June 17 that year.
He said the tendons in his arm were severed and came away from the bone in the crash. He had needed hundreds of internal and external stitches to his arm and had also fractured his shoulder.
He said he was ‘scared out his mind’ the whole time he was in the car.
Garda Denise O’Halloran told the court she and Garda Michael Dolan encountered the Golf at 11pm and pursued it as it sped away from them along the Ballymoneen Road.
The Golf increased speed to between 80 and 100km/h on the Western Distributor Road, overtaking cars and failing to slow down at roundabouts.
The car went onto Bishop O’Donnell Road, weaving in and out of the bus lane, undertaking traffic on the ordinary lane.
Cars had to take evasive action as the car sped through red lights at Westside.
Conroy drove though more red lights at the end of Seamus Quirke Road before driving the entire length of Quincentenary Bridge on the incorrect side of the dual carriageway, reaching 100km/h in all of the 50km/h zones.
Another patrol car, driven by Garda Nigel Silke joined the chase on the Headford Road side of the bridge.
Garda Ronan Leonard, who was a front seat passenger, told the court he got a clear view of Conroy driving the car as it exited the bridge onto the Headford Road.
Both Garda cars followed the Golf as far as Clonboo but as it continued to increase its speed, it was decided to end the chase in the interests of public safety.
Moments later, they heard over the radio that a car had crashed near Corrandulla and they went to the scene.
Conroy was subsequently arrested and charged.
The jury took just over two hours late on Friday afternoon to return a unanimous verdict, finding Conroy guilty of all charges.
Judge Eoin Garavan refused an application for bail and he remanded Conroy in custody to July 20 for sentencing.
Galway passengers are all smiles at Shannon!
The smiles on the faces at Shannon Airport very much told its own story this week – with passengers taking to skies as the easing of restrictions and the first day of the European Digital COVID Certificates took effect.
And it wasn’t just the joy of travel starting to resume that lifted spirits at the airport but also the announcement by Ryanair of a new once-weekly service to Gran Canaria (Las Palmas) to commence on August 7 – the third new service announcement for Shannon Airport over recent weeks.
There was a real sense of excitement as passengers of all ages became very much at ease with the heightened public safety measures in a ‘back-to-the-future’ day for the West of Ireland gateway airport.
There were reunions as inbound flights arrived but also a palpable degree of anticipation as others got set to depart on the earliest flight out of the airport today, the 7:10am flight to Gatwick.
Among those boarding was Clarenbridge native Claire Tomlin and her husband Jake, together with their three children, including their twins who turn a year old next week.
“It’s been amazing to get back. The kids saw their grandparents for the first time and their cousins and aunties and uncles, so it was fantastic,” said Claire.
“Shannon is just so convenient for us because it’s only about 40 minutes’ drive. So, it just makes everything a lot easier in terms of getting to and from places with little ones. So, yeah, Shannon is a great resource for us. Really, really good. We hope to be able to go back more and more.”
It was smiles all around for Shannon Airport staff as they got back to doing what they do best. “Well, today is a great day because you can see the atmosphere around the place, people are at ease here and they’re glad to be back, they’re glad to get up in the sky again,” said Shannon Duty Free Sales Associate Helen Quinlivan.
“It’s great to see the excitement. People are really looking forward to going back and seeing their loved ones and they’re very at ease.”
Galway In Days Gone By
Silence is golden
Leaders on both sides have stated that the best assistance the country can give in the making of peace is to keep silence.
During the past week there has been a great deal of speculation, most of it harmless enough, as, for instance, the enterprising American journalist’s “exclusive” on the first meeting of the British Premier and the President of the Irish Republic; much of it positively mischievous, as the case of the efforts of a certain journal, which has grown hoary in the reputation for throwing in the apple of discord, to anticipate failure in advance.
Our American colleague was on surer and on safer ground when he told of how de Valera and Lloyd George met.
“Mr. Lloyd George,” he cabled, “was sitting at his desk when the Irish President entered. For just a minute these two gazed fixedly at one another. Then the British Premier walked across the intervening space and shook de Valera by the hand. He led him to a seat where they sat side by side. The atmosphere was tense. They faced one another. Then Lloyd George reached down for a box of cigars. But the Irish President is of Spartan mould. He neither permits himself to drink nor smoke. He politely but firmly waved the box away. Mr. Lloyd George, however, selected and lighted a Havana, and as the smoke curled upwards the atmosphere became decidedly easier!”
The wise and practical man always lays by a store against the time when supplies will be scarce. One of the most serious effects of the prolonged drought is the scarcity of supplies of fodder for cattle-feeding during the coming winter and spring.
The hay crop is not more than half the average yield. The corn crop is far below normal. Turnips in many districts are a partial failure. We have frequently emphasised the importance of growing catch-crops to supplement other feeding stuffs raised on the farm, but it is only under circumstances such as the present that their utility is brought home to farmers. Owing to the early harvest, a larger area than is usual can and should be put down this season. This would make good, to some extent, at least, the shortage of hay and other feeding-stuffs.
The demonstration plots laid down by the County Committee of Agriculture have shown that catch-crops, such as vetches and rye as well as other mixtures, can be successfully grown in all parts of County Galway.
We would urge on farmers the desirability – nay, the necessity – of procuring seed and making early preparation for the sowing of an increased area of catch-crops this season.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App
Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.
Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite HERE.
Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.
A home that can generate rent!
New to the market is this lovely, extremely deceptive and impressive home situated only 450 metres from Clarinbridge village.
Stonebridge House is located on a fine site with a tarmacadam driveway, mature shrubs and trees, water feature, decked area and stables to the rear all adding to the many delightful features of this well-built home.
It was built in 1982 and extended in 1993, creating a bright, spacious home which is perfect for today’s busy, modern family lifestyle.
The main house is a six-bed residence with a two-bedroomed basement apartment offering 3,000 sq ft of family living accommodation.
This makes this property perfect for multi-generational living or should you wish to rent out the basement apartment, can provide you with extra income.
The welcoming half front door takes you into the hallway where there is a ground floor bedroom to your left and to your right. Further down the hallway to your right leads you into the spacious kitchen/dining area perfect for family life and entertaining, with plenty of storage space, a Stanley range cooker set into a gorgeous cream brick inglenook with an added feature of a back boiler that heats the water and radiators.
There is an office/media room off the kitchen which every house needs nowadays, as today’s family spends more and more time on the web.
Double doors open to the large tastefully decorated sitting room with a feature fireplace and a solid fuel stove. The den area is filled with natural light with plenty of windows and patio doors opening onto the garden and patio area. Also on this floor is a guest toilet.
Upstairs on the first floor is the spacious landing with built-in storage cupboards and leading to four fine bedrooms and the main bathroom. Another bonus to this beautiful home is the installation of a convenient central vacuum system which is known for its removal of allergens and dust when cleaning and not having to drag a vacuum from room to room!
The asking price is €495,000. For further information or to arrange a viewing, contact DNG Brian MacMahon on 091 638638.